There’s a lot of talk these days about “brand awareness”. What’s your brand? How can we develop our brand? Can we project our brand more effectively? You hear it everywhere, and college campuses are not exempt. The problem with this current obsession is that it too easily becomes a preoccupation with the superficial. Logos and slogans and tag lines are only ink deep, and conversations about brand rarely go any deeper.
I prefer the more classical approach. Isn’t it better to ask: Who are we? Why are we here? What do we want to be? Where are we going? I think that’s what the brand people are trying to get at, but they’re just in too big of a hurry. So the other day I set aside some time to sit quietly and really think about who or what Holy Cross is. What’s the Holy Cross brand? And I came up with a few ideas. You can learn a lot just by watching.
One day this past fall I was out on campus and I noticed our president, Fr. Bill Beauchamp, C.S.C., across the quad. He was walking alone, probably from a meeting with a dean to a luncheon with a benefactor. Suddenly, he stopped and bent down and picked up something from the sidewalk, then walked on until he came to a trash can at an intersection where he dumped whatever he had picked up from the sidewalk into the can. What does this have to do with the Holy Cross brand, you ask? How about humility? Or zeal? Or love and respect for the people and the place where you live and work?
There’s another Fr. Beauchamp story that also answers the question: Who are we? A few years ago a young man found his way to our campus but didn’t know how he could possibly stay. Isaac was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, an orphan and a refugee from the savagery that wrecked the Horn of Africa. Isaac was penniless. Fr. Beauchamp quietly made sure that Isaac could become a student here and when he graduated, Isaac returned to South Sudan to help rebuild his country. The Holy Cross brand? Basil Moreau’s instructions were to give special care to the poor.
Here’s another brand story. In November, students here get a front row seat to see just what the Holy Cross brand is. Every year the residents of a men’s dorm, Villa Maria, produce a fund raiser for Holy Cross charities. “The Man Auction” allows groups of guys to develop an entertaining act that has a ‘date’ that goes with it. Women from all over campus bid on the acts. It’s always a huge success, and this year raised more than $20,000. The top-selling act: five Holy Cross priests singing a Beatles’ song and dinner for 21 students at the president’s house. The winning bid? $3,125. If the Holy Cross brand is anything, it’s a sense of humanness and humor. It’s self-effacing and down-to-earth.
There really isn’t a day that goes by that isn’t filled with examples of the Holy Cross brand that speak much louder and more deeply than any of the things that we spend hours designing. The Holy Cross brand really isn’t something that you can design and print. It’s a way of life. A lot of people like the idea of Holy Cross, but not everyone can live it.
Mr. John Soisson is the Special Assistant to the President at the University of Portland in Portland, Ore. He and Mr. Rob Curtis, the Pastoral Minister at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, Ariz., team up to contribute to the Spes Unica blog the perspective of our lay collaborators in Holy Cross. Our lay collaborators not only join us in what we do, but they also help make us who we are. It is impossible to imagine our lives, our mission, or our vocations without them, and so to help those discerning with our community, we include their voices on our blog as well.